What demons stifled Susan’s soul and overwhelmed her mind so that she saw no other future but to kill herself last Wednesday (March 17 2010)?  We will probably never know, although recent reports about Susan mentioned her extremely dangerous job of stopping drug trafficking on public lands bordering Mexico. The gut wrenching emotions of the horrors she must have witnessed while on a case, fear and adrenalin spiking in the face of unknown outcomes, may lie at the root of it, although Susan had always had a serious side to her.

The Susan I remember was just a punk archaeologist like me working for Park Service in Anchorage in the early 80s. I don’t recall that we were in the field together but I do recall that we bonded.  She worked many places in Alaska-Katmai, Lake Clark, Cape Krusenstern, and many other places. I was most jealous of her gig at Krusenstern, north of the Arctic Circle, in the tundra, and with one of our best friends, Harvey Shields.  Archaeology heaven! I’ve since flown over Krusenstern but have never seen it from a zodiac, up close and personal.

Susan loved the exotic. I watched her apartment for her in Man in the Moon Valley while she went to China. She started out the trip with her friend, Bonnie, but then continued on by herself. How courageous, I thought-a lone woman in a country where you can’t read the signs because they use hundreds (thousands?) of kanji instead. Then there was the time she shaved her hair into a buzz cut and went to Morocco to dig with a friend. She got really tan. In the photo of her beneath a shawl, she looked every bit the local. 

Then there was the horrible trip accompanying Harvey’s ashes and his widow to Harvey’s favorite places in Alaska in 1993. Susan spread his ashes over Katmai. I took his widow to Denali.

She was a great friend to people like me and especially Sande, always keeping tabs on us, always checking in. As her life became more complex after she moved to Tucson, and especially after her mother died, she and Sande spoke every day.  We don’t know what went wrong-she became more isolated and a bit more rigid over the years.  I do know this-I will always miss her.